Skip to main content

Full text of "My Country And My People"

See other formats


LITERARY    LIFE                       225

trenches. The party that finds a better-sounding pretext wins
in the eyes of the public. The dead language therefore became
a dishonest language. Anything is permissible so long as you
call it by the wrong name.

Some instances of the Chinese literary finesse are the fol-
lowing. When a provincial government embarked on a policy
of public sale of opium, it found an extremely clever war-cry
of four syllables, "Imply banning in taxing," and the discovery
of that slogan alone carried the policy through as no other
slogan possibly could. When the Chinese government removed
its capital from Nanking to Loyang following the Shanghai
War, it found another slogan called "long-term resistance."
In Szechuen some of the war-lords forced the farmers to plant
opium, and had the cleverness to call it "laziness tax," the tax
being on those farmers who are lazy enough not to plant
opium. Recently, the same province has produced a new tax
called "goodwill tax," i.e., an extra tax on top of those which
are already thirty times the regular farm tax, which is to bring
about goodwill between the people and the soldiers by paying
the soldiers and making it unnecessary for the unpaid army
further to help themselves. That is why, when we are among
ourselves, we laugh at the foreign devils for their "simple-
mindedness."

Such literary catastrophes are possible only in a nation
believing in a false literary standard, and are in fact merely the
result of the wrong method of teaching composition in primary
schools. A modern Chinese, seeing the performance of such a
literary atrocity, can only do either of two things. First, he can
take the traditional view of literature and blandly regard it as
pure belles-lettres, which need have no correlation with the
facts which the writing is supposed to convey—and then read
between the lines. Or he must demand a closer approximation
between words and thought and a new literary standard, with
a language more capable of expressing man's life and thoughts.
In other words, he must regard the prevalence of such verbose
statements as a malpractice more of a literary than of a political
origin. But he must also believe that unless such literary mal-
practices are weeded out, political malpractices must also
follow.